I had a quick chance to take a look at the renderings and photographs of the new Washington ballpark over at JDLand. I'd seen some of these renderings before, but it's nice to get a little bit of context.
It's also very cool to see what it looks like when a ballpark starts to emerge from barren land (check out the construction photos). If they ever start building our park, you'll see that type of documentation here.
Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid
But I have to agree to a certain extent with John's comment below about the looks of this ballpark. I wouldn't exactly call it "ugly", but it will probably never be taken for "soaring architecture" either. In fact, I'm struck by it's blandness and utter lack of personality. It's a good thing that they're planning to install cherry trees, because without them, this building could only inspire yawns.
It has a very massive feel, and part of that is because it's being built on a site over twice as large (20 1/5 acres) as the Rapid Park site the Twins hope to use (see image)! That means there's lots of room to stretch out and build gigantic staircases, observation towers (which will presumably offer observation of only the passing traffic outside the park), and even a full office complex. This is one very large site on which will be built one very large ballpark.
In terms of design, it appears to have almost no facade -- at least no unifying theme around the outside (or the inside for that matter). The elevation diagrams show a building which reveals its skeleton (not necessarily a bad thing), and doesn't really strive to look like anything.
I know that architectural significance was discussed and eventually required when the financing for the park was passed, but that appears to have slipped by the wayside. There is nothing significant here, and almost nothing one might call "architecture". It appears to be pure engineering.
Of course, in that respect it would follow on the history of ballparks in Washington. Griffith Stadium looked like it was put together from a box of spare ballpark parts. (We should also acknowledge that the facade our own beloved Metropolitan Stadium was essentially some sprinklings of colored brick barely concealing rusty iron). I did notice that there are two roof heights, something which may be a nod to old Griffith Stadium.
Part of my dislike is the low and very squat profile. There are no soaring light standards, and only muted vertical lines of any kind. Ballparks, seen from the side, are all essentially short and wide buildings, but adding vertical components (usually having to do with the circulation of people to the various levels) can really make a difference in the overall character of a stadium.
A memorable example of such a detail is the tower built into Wrigley Field in LA. That park also featured flags along to outside perimeter, something you may notice if you look closely at some of the Washington drawings. Unfortunately, those little flags get completely lost in the massive bulk of the Nationals new park, where they really added a touch of flair in California. I think the Washington park really cries out for some unique architectural element to make it distinctive.
So, while the park looks functional, and any new ballpark is an exciting place, there's nothing here which really makes me want to say, "Wow!"
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
A path for workers -- don't touch the plaza! -- in front of three giant Chia pets
A Killebrew tribute covers part of the wall where the entry doors are located near the escalators.
Detail of the train tunnels (click to view the entire drawing)
The Metropolitan Club (click to enlarge)
TCF Bank Stadium (click to enlarge)
The finished product.
First, an overview. The base of the plaza here will meet the base of Sixth Street at Second Avenue.
Off-topic, but this gigantic, cool, retro sign is just across the street from S&CH. Why? I don't know. Might look nice on top of one of those municipal parking ramps...
This is the staircase (ramp?) leading up to the trapezoid. Nice flagpole too. You'll be able to find me and Ben McEvers at the base of that flagpole on opening day in 2010!
Pile driving in progress
Denard Span ready, in a swoop of sunlight.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Skyline to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the outfield with you... (click to enlarge)
The season was perfectly bookended by Mick Sterling on the plaza
TC meets the Mayor (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
Left to right: Opat, Oliva, Dave St. Peter, Melvin Tennant (Meet Minneapolis), Jerry Bell, Rybak
Doors directly to the concourse, and a view of the stands beyond
This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).
The view from my seats in Section 237 (The Trap), Row 1 (can't see much of center field without standing up...)
These are the outside tracks which go under the promenade
Brick work just inside the opening matches the color of the limestone - per Jerry Bell's requirements.
Lower deck view of the out-of-town scoreboard.
The saddest event
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
This would be a beautiful streetscape if there were ANY people.
Perhaps these very bold, Hitchcockian birds picking at left-over popcorn and peanuts were portents of what was to come.
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.